“The man has decided to stay. Despite all the setbacks he’s encountered in the place and its community, he likes it there. Staying there, sharing the life and love of God is what he wants to do. It will be worth the time and effort, because God has put him in this place. Over time, he feels that he might even put down deep roots of love there.
Time passes. Things have not been easy, but his determination to love and serve God and the people of that place has carried him along.
One day he wakes up and everything seems to have changed. He seems to have lost focus on his commitments, and, frankly, the place is boring him. It seems to be cramping his style, restricting his gifts and not allowing him to be the person God has made him to be. The people he has been determined to serve seemed unconcerned whether he’s there or not.
The man runs a quick personal inventory…this seems like and yet unlike the feelings and symptoms of depression. He’s not depressed…what’s going on?
He feels weary and unmotivated…little wonder, he thinks, when he has spent himself in this place for so little fruit.
It suddenly becomes clear to him that many of those he had been working with lacked his own determination and calling. He sees them as unspiritual and self- seeking, caring more for building their own kingdoms than the kingdom of God.
He decides to spend more time alone with God in his ‘cell’, in order to weigh the motives of his own heart and to be refreshed by close communion with The Lord he loved.
This proves harder than he imagined.”
To be continued…
The man in our story had encountered what the desert monastics of old called “the noonday devil”, who comes and attacks us after we’ve made our decision to stay and as the heat of the day, or rather the constant heat of many days, sets in.
Although its original context was that of hermits in the desert, it has meaning for all those who determine to stay in a place of God’s choosing, for good or ill.
They had a name for it…they called it Acedia (literally, a lack of caring), and recognised it for the dangerous and debilitating spiritual sickness that it was. John Cassian writes at length about the symptoms and cure of Acedia in his Institutes.
“Acedia, which we may term weariness or distress of heart. This is akin to dejection, and is especially trying to solitaries, and a dangerous and frequent foe to dwellers in the desert…and when this has taken possession of some unhappy soul, it produces dislike of the place, disgust with the cell, and disdain and contempt of the brethren who dwell with him or at a little distance, as if they were careless or unspiritual.” John Cassian, “Institutes”, Chapters 1 and 2